Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Specter of flooding still haunts Crescent City
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently fell on its sword so to speak, regarding the collapse of the levees that protected New Orleans from flooding.

Less than two months before the start of another hurricane season, the Corps admitted that it was their design flaw that allowed soil along the canal to erode, thereby causing the floodwall to cave in. After that, water went pouring into the city, and the rest, as they say, is history.

To local residents, the admission wasn't much of a surprise. Many here never believed early arguments that the flooding of New Orleans by a category three hurricane was caused by water pouring over the top of the levees and overwhelming them.

But the Corps had another shocker. It won't cost $3.5 billion to shore-up the levee system, as the Corps had predicted. No, repairs will cost about $6 billion more, for a total price tag of $9.5 billion. That's because the rebuilt levees have to be higher and need more reinforcement than the old ones.

New Orleans residents fear that if the city floods again it is going to be the death knell here. Take Liane Buchert (that's BOO-shay for those of you outside this area). Her home and restaurant were both ruined by the flood after Katrina.

But she exemplifies the strong character of so many people who remain here. She now sells boiled crawfish in front of her washed-out restaurant, and judging by the lines, business is good. But she thinks it would be too hard financially and emotionally to pick up the pieces again if another hurricane blasted the city.

"If the levees break again, I doubt I will be back," Liane said.

And there is no guarantee $10 billion dollars in improvements will protect the city from the next hurricane.

Lt. Gen. Carl Strock of the Army Corps put it this way: "Without being trite or cute here, how do you say to the people in San Francisco that no one will die in an earthquake?"

That's not exactly what stressed-out residents thought they would hear from the man in charge of repairing the levee system as the hurricane season bears down on them June 1.
Posted By Sean Callebs, CNN Correspondent: 5:32 PM ET
  27 Comments
Once again, another story about people living in a flood prone area. Once again these people are complaining and crying foul when the weather turns bad. And Once again we are bailing them out. People who live in areas that natural disasters are more then likely to occur should both know the risk and be willing to accept it.
I propose a new law: "Anytime a person gains possession of a property he/she will knowingly accept all liability for loses due to natural disasters that could likely happen. And that the person buying the property must review and know the probabilities for various disasters to occur." In other words if you buy a house, then you should have to research the possibility a disaster will occur there just like you would research the foundation of the house you are buying. And if you build a house next to a river, or on the coast, or in the bowl, aka New Orleans, then you assume the responsibility for the lose of it to nature.
Posted By Anonymous Brant, Madison, WI : 6:01 PM ET
Just curious Brant. What's the probability that your residence will be damaged by wind or fire? Unfortunately, the probability that a country with dreams as noble as univerisal democracy will harness the intelligence, technology and compassion of its people to preserve its humanity, culture and identity is less probable than fire, wind or water turning your residence into rubble. I wish you the best Brant.
Posted By Anonymous Ed, New Orleans, LA : 6:32 PM ET
The point of the story is that most of the damage suffered by the city of New Orleans was man-made, and not the consequence of a natural disaster. As such, it is the obligation of the government responsible for that damage to help those of us who are victims in repairing it.
Posted By Anonymous Allison, New Orleans, LA : 7:45 PM ET
Thanks Sean for the report. You know when your small you are made to believe the certain people places and things will protect you. Police and Fire personel your clergy. And, the government officials in the jobs they carry. To ask about the truth of where you live work and raise your family isnt "once again bailing them out". It was someones responsibility to see the levees held, they didnt.
Also Sean, it was my understanding from a report a while back that they werent building better just back like they were, has this changed?
Thanks for keeping them honest.
Posted By Anonymous Julie, Erwin, TN : 8:16 PM ET
I guess everyone in the Netherlands is just S.O.L., in Brantworld.

California is prone to earthquakes. The bible-belt is blasted by tornadoes. The prairies are fire-hazards.

In a world characterized by global climate change, it's not clear that anywhere is 'safe'.

We need to stop blaming the victims, because any one of us could be next.
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 9:43 PM ET
Brant, I wonder about people like you, who must think that they are invincible. I guess you live in a place where you don't need any insurance. I guess there's never the possibility of flooding, snow storms, ice storms or other unfortunate event that could cause you to be in need. It must be nice in Neverland.
Posted By Anonymous Paige B., New Orleanian in Austin, TX : 9:46 PM ET
Hi Sean,
There isn't anywhere in the world that doesn't have some risk..I live in a State that has earthquakes, landslides, floods, wild fires,and an ocean that could wash a beachfront house right into the sea..But we all are still here..There's no guarantees in this world for anything or anyone..I think the people of New Orleans will have to decide for themselves just when enough is enough..I wish them all the best. What a tough decision either way. My vote would be to Fix the levees once and for all..One can hope..
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 10:05 PM ET
Build all you want. You will never fight against what nature is going to destroy.
Posted By Anonymous Damian, Chicago, IL : 11:41 PM ET
Let's be realistic, if this hurricane season destroys New Orleans or any other city that got destroyed last year again, there is going to be absolutely no chance of rebuilding. The country cannot spend all that money every year to make something that will go down in a couple of months, but if it does stand (which I think not plausible) then by all means rebuild as fast as you can. At the same time, the media cannot continue with "the rebuild of New Orleans" without plainly stating that the probability of continuation is almost null. Instead of rebuilding, government should be doing anything it can to relocate those families, and if they don't want to leave, well fine, that's their responsability now. But seriously, all this money being spent on poor infrastructure, that they say "by june will be stronger than prior katrina" is ridiculous. First, all the money will stall like everything else, bureaucracy has delayed majority of reconstruction for a while. Second, with continuing political debacles between Mayor Nagen and FEMA, who is not to say that the money will somehow in some weird way be misplaced? Really, by June? Stronger? How can they make such assertions cutting so close to Hurricane season and at the same time be blind to previous debacles? Let's be serious here, this summer will either be a catastrophe or a full blown miracle
Posted By Anonymous Gui, Tomball, TX : 12:07 AM ET
Ok, so we know now, again, and forever that the damage done in New Orleans was due to the levee system. NOW can we move on to the damage done in Mississippi?
Posted By Anonymous Tim, Dallas, TX : 12:38 AM ET
I moved to Texas from New Orleans 20 years ago. My first month here I heard a tornado warning, and my first month after moving to Austin the town of Jerrell was flattened by one.

There's not a place in these United States that isn't prone to disaster. This part of the country gets tornados, the north gets ice storms, the west gets earthquakes, and New Orleans gets hurricanes.
Posted By Anonymous Julie, Austin, TX : 4:06 AM ET
Already this year, we have seen about five times the average number of tornado reports. Once again, another story about people living in a tornado prone area. So Brant, everyone living in the Midwest assume your responsibility (Be Real)
Posted By Anonymous Gene,Lafayette,LA : 6:38 AM ET
Brant,

Nice rant, now try reading what was written. The levees broke because of a design flaw . Now let's say it again. THE LEVEES BROKE BECAUSE OF A DESIGN FLAW. I do not suppose that you would know how much revenue Louisiana receives from its offshore oil and gas, either. One of the neighborhoods in New Orleans, Mid-City had never flooed prior to the levee breach. What do you say to those people? It is really easy to say, people who live in flood-prone areas deserve no help. Why don't you come down to my city and see. Try to imagine what it is like for the thousands of children who have been uprooted from their homes, schools, churches, etc. I work with them every day and there is a sadness there, that hopefully you or your children will never have to experience what these children of the storm have endured for the last 8 months and god knows how much longer. You see, I drive by the 17th street canal breach daily and I don't see foolish people, I just see hundreds of waterstained and waterlogged homes.
Posted By Anonymous Ruth Brewington, Metairie, LA : 7:04 AM ET
How trite!
Do you propose that California (susceptible to earthquakes), the Eastern and Gulf Coasts (susceptible to hurricanes0 and your own Midwest (susceptible to tornadoes and flooding) be depopulated?
Perhaps you have not thought about it, but by their very nature, the nation's largest ports are located on waterways where Mother Nature may have some impact.
The problem in New Orleans was that the city and state have sacrificed their natural protections to permit oil and gas exploration that benefits the entire country and we are the ones paying the price for it. Our coast is eroding as a consequence. The ACOE was to build levees that would protect us and failed miserably.
Get a life.
Posted By Anonymous Louis D'Esneault, New Orleans : 7:50 AM ET
Brant needs to go back and read the article. New Orleans has been there for hundreds of years. This disaster was partly man-made. If the levees had held, events would have been very different.
Posted By Anonymous Catherine, Austin, TX : 9:06 AM ET
I live in Minnesota. I have never gone through the horror of a hurricane. I can't say I understand the stress these people have gone through. However, just because they choose to build their lives that close to the ocean and below sea level, should I have to pay to repair their damaged city and give this tragedy another chance to occur? No matter how well they rebuild, there is no way to say this will never happen again. When we have a tornado warning, we get out of the way of the storm and seek secure shelter. Deaths from tornadoes are not as common as some might expect, even though people often have only minutes of warning beofre their hommes are destroyed. The reason is people in Minnesota have learned you can't control nature. Listen to the warnings when you get them and get the heck out of the way. My in-laws are still picking up the pieces on their farm from a tornado 8 years ago, but they are not important enough for national news.
Posted By Anonymous B, Lake Crystal MN : 9:22 AM ET
Brant, good luck in your next blizzard. If you happen to get stranded in the middle of nowhere, don't look for help. You chose to live in Wisconsin, so deal with it.
Posted By Anonymous William, Shreveport, LA : 9:29 AM ET
I fear that we could face a repeat with a far weaker storm than Katrina this year. I remember when I lived there through some minor hurricanes and tropical storms that 15 inches of rain is possible in a short period of time. If there is still undetected erosion, who is to say there won't be more breaches. Unfortunately, newer breaches could be in new areas destroyed parts of the city that were previously lucky.

And as for prior comments about living in a flood-prone region, as soon as someone can come up with a way to replace the port revenue in Houston, New Orleans, and Charleston, I am sure we'll need fewer people living in those areas to support them. And that doesn't even begin to address poverty and race/class issues.
Posted By Anonymous Jason, Bowie, MD via New Orleans : 9:38 AM ET
I take some exception to the typically "media-inferred accusatory tone" of your story about the reconstruction of New Orleans's levee system. (1.) There was probably NO real "design flaw" 50 years ago when the system was built, at least not by the standards of the day. Back then, it was most likely the best that the civil engineering of the day could muster. (2.) AND, if there's going to be a cost overrun to repair the current system ($10 billion now rather than the original 3.5 estimate, according to the Army Corps of Engineers) then so what?! Even the best contractors/developers, private or public, often overrun initial cost projections and don't always know what a project will entail into they get well into it! Consider it this way: the Bush Budget this year cut some $12 billion for student financial aid out of the Dept. of Education's budget and yet nobody raised an eyebrow! Yet that money is(was) an investment in our children, their future, indeed the future of our entire country! The very same week, the Administration earmarked $100 billion in aid to Afghanistan, a country that we supposedly "liberated" but which nearly "doused & torched" one of its own citizens simply for being a Christian (an "infidel" to them) -- so much for "Religious Freedom" there, uh? And yet we continue to fund such behavior; behavior that would indict and condemn every American non-Muslim! (And so what kind of fools are we to continue sending money to such people? Money we can't spare in the first place with borrowing, borrowing, and yet more borrowing!) The main point I'm making here is that, if it costs a few dollars more to rebuilt, protect a major American city such as New Orleans, is this expense not just as worthwhile (if not more so) than all the money Washington throws away on other, truly dubious endeavours?!? I think it is. New Orleans must live on, no matter the cost! It would be a sorry day indeed if we go into "fiscal hoc" rebuilding countries that sit atop some the largest proven reserves or crude oil in the world, countries with unrealized wealth just below their feet, but we can't find a way to rebuild one of the crown-jewel cities of our own country...right here at home!!
Posted By Anonymous Michael Alexander, New Orleans, LA : 10:15 AM ET
Hey Brant...way to go buddy. You just nailed the fact that your a not so nice person. I wanted to say something else but was afriad they won't post it but I bet you can guess what I was going to say what you are. How about you lighten up a bit and ooze a little compassion. This is where the majority of these people were born and raised. It's called HOME. I'm sure you're living in a real nice area as I am in Northern Virginia but this area was my home for many years. I love the Gulf Coast region and it's magnificent. I'm sure if your home was destroyed you would demand that the Government fix it any way they could. Some assistance would be nice along with some compassion dude.
Posted By Anonymous R Reeves, Virginia : 10:21 AM ET
I think Brant has a valid point. There are areas all over the country that are hit time and time again by natural disasters. The flooding along the Mississippi is an excellent example. The same homes along the river have been damaged and rebuilt over and over costing US taxpayers millions.

There was a small town along the Ohio River in Indiana where this happened repeatedly. Finally, the US Army Corp. of Engineers said, "Enough!" They moved the entire town back away from the flood area.

Often after a natural disaster, the government offers low cost loans to rebuild. These loans draw new people into the area, as well. This needs to be discouraged. Would you knowingly build your home over a fault? The same principal applies here.
Posted By Anonymous Jane, Howell, NJ : 11:04 AM ET
Consensus is the essential foundation of all great social accomplishment. Katrina has exposed a fractured and discordant culture, where neither leaders nor citizens value consensus. An admonition for others to be self-sufficient constitutes a dismissal of need directed at the poor and disenfranchised. The ideal embraced by the upper class is not self-sufficiency, but "networking." That means "establishing mutually beneficial alliances through influence peddling, lobbying, and justification of wrong-doing." Many of those who appear to have benefitted from networking and readily expound self-sufficiency for others, believe they possess superior intelligence and character and therefore deserve their wealth. In truth they are not intelligent at all. They are systematically destroying the consensus upon which their success depends.
Katrina has exposed a self-destructive social process. Do we have the courage to face the truth of our social reality? Do we have the courage to rebuild the consensus that once made this country great?
Posted By Anonymous Dale R. Evans, Los Gatos, California : 11:48 AM ET
I agree that the rest of the country shouldn't have to keep paying to fix new orleans after a natural disaster. The state can and should help itself. Here are a few ideas: 1.the governor should stop all off shore drilling off our coast. 2. ALL oil and gas that goes thru Louisiana should be heavily taxed(whats a few extra dollars a gallon to the rest of the country) 3. Close the port of New Orleans for 2 weeks ok maybe just a week and we'll see how it will effect the us economy. The people in the US do not appreciation the value of this great state. The port of New Orleans is vital to the farmers along the mississippi river. Louisiana unlike alot of states allows the off shore drilling while not getting its fair of revenue and if it ever stops that drilling we don't want to hear how it is too expensive to heat your home in the winter. The people in Louisiana are wonderful people. I am a northerner by birth but I would take the people down here over the rest of the country any day.
Posted By Anonymous JoAnn Berwick,La : 12:16 PM ET
Ageed. It should be fixed, but fixed CORRECTLY! Anybody who has read a National Geographic, or seen a PBS special has known for years that a bad hurricane had the potential to destroy the city. It's own politicians should be held liable for not fixing this problem they've known about for years. It's a city that is vital, and should be fixed once and for all. Now, California on the other hand, I AM getting tired of. At least La. was a one time in a century storm, Californians continue to build on the side of a soon-to-be landslide that's only waiting because the Santa Ana winds are too busy burning the homes down, but let's rebuild, year, after year!!! By the way, I wonder how much catastrphic insurance has come to New England, we suffer from the deaths of billions of colored leaves every fall.
Posted By Anonymous William C. Boston, Ma. : 12:51 PM ET
Unfortunately, the New Orleans levee system was not built using the best standards of the day. I grew up within a half-mile of the breach in the 17th St. canal. I watched as the levees, really just piles of dirt a few feet wide, were "reinforced". Even as a child I was amazed at how flimsy the construction was. When was Hoover dam built? Did New Orleans get massive concrete levees wide enough to withstand the forces it was sure to encounter? Why not? The short answer is that neighborhoods already existed in very close proximity and it was too expensive to buy out and then destroy them just to build sufficient protection for the rest of the city. The long answer is probably much more cynical, if not downright sinister. Now ask yourself why we're setting the city up for another failure by simply restoring the levee system to its pre-Katrina state. Is it for a lack of Federal funds, or is it more likely a lack of compassion for a city that has historically been on society's fringe, a city that indulges itself in the frivolities of life's nuances? A number of the neighborhoods that were used as an excuse to build sub-standard protection no longer exist. This is a golden opportunity for the New Orleans levee system to be rebuilt with the same degree of technical prowess that went into building the Hoover dam. These levees should not be reinforced dirt mounds just a few feet wide. To deny New Orleans the support it needs is the lowest form of raw prejudice.
Posted By Anonymous Brandon Craig, Sacramento, CA : 3:17 PM ET
The land around New Orleans is sinking due it's location on an alluvial flood plain. No new land is being created there because of the levees. If anyone wants to live there, they should be prepared to jack up their house and pay the extra expense. I live in Ohio and I have a house with a deep basement because we get tornadoes. That's just what we do because of where we live.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Youngstown, Ohio : 1:52 PM ET
To Michael, a fellow New Orleanian, I gently suggest that you get better informed on what caused the levee failure at the 17th St canal. First, ACOE engineers have admitted that they did not do core soil specimens like the standard of the day called for when constructing these levees. Second, they have also admitted that internal memos questioned why they were not sinking the corregated metal within the earthen levee to the depth called for in the design, but to a lesser and less safe depth. Nothing was done despite this known problem. Third, outside agencies inspecting the work called for correction of the same errors in construction, with no response. The levees were NOT built to the standard of their day, they were built to a lesser standard with less testing to confirm their strength, by engineers who were aware the whole time that they were slighting the project. (Aside to Brant - try anticipating just which federal projects in YOUR area will unexpectedly fail and destroy your home, and take responsibility for that yourself.) We New Orleanians were well aware of the flood risks, just as most Americans are aware of whatever risks exist in their areas. We are not talking about how an expected risk actually happened, we are talking about how protection provided by our federal government was known, years prior to the disaster, to be inadequate, yet we were assured over and over again that we were safe. And one last note - the insurance industry has noted that New Orleans had one of the highest rates of flood insurance coverage, meaning a higher percentage of home owners had flood coverage, than any other area of the country. So we WERE taking responsibility.
Posted By Anonymous Sue, New Orleans, LA : 2:22 PM ET
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